“Stan” is Eminem’s best song – yes, better than “Lose Yourself,” but only slightly – not just for its impact on the pop world at large, not just for the lyrics, not just for the beat, but for a very simple, sad reason: you probably know a Stan. They or may not be an Eminem fan, but they’re a well-meaning, self-destructive, neglected, depressed, violent person who’s incredibly passionate about what they love and hate almost everything else. They might have been your friend, but maybe not; they’re not good at making friends. And lest you think I’m judging or casting general aspersions, I have had many friends like this in my life. None were bad people, but they all had issues. So I suppose it hits close to home for me because of that, but its message and lyrics are timeless.
As for the actual song… yeah, it’s great. “Stan’s” instrumental classic for a reason: the Dido sample feels lonely set against the chilling subject mater, like a radio left on outside in the rain, with lo-fi click-clack drums tapping solemnly underneath, bass gliding quietly along with Em’s flow. (It’s certainly aged better than most of Slim Shady and Marshall Mathers, in all honesty.) I need not mention how the thunder and rain set the tone before you’ve even heard the first verse, how the song grows more and more desperate and angry as it goes along, or how the in-song skits actually serve a purpose because they’re an actual part of the song, or how Em bends his lyrics around the beat, carefully enunciating at all the right moments and climaxing the song at the perfect time (“I hope your conscience EATS AT YOU and you can’t BREATHE without me! See Slim; [*screaming*] Shut up bitch! I’m trying to talk!“), or how the song is over six minutes long while not letting you feel like you wasted your time at all… I’m not really an Eminem fan, but if this song isn’t one of the best songs of the past 20 years, you can sue me.